Falling shipments to the West hit S'pore exports

Singapore's exports last month fell more than expected on declines in shipments to the United States and Europe, official data showed yesterday, clouding the trade outlook.

Non-oil domestic exports slid 6.6 per cent last month from a year earlier, according to International Enterprise Singapore, far below a median forecast of a 0.8 per cent dip in a Reuters poll.

The exports also fell a seasonally adjusted 8.9 per cent from February, a severe shortfall compared to the estimated 1.6 per cent decline.

"This suggests an export-recovery story is very patchy,"said Ms Selena Ling, head of treasury research at OCBC Bank.

"Exports are likely to be flat or underperform in the coming months," Ms Ling added.

Shipments to the European Union fell 27.8 per cent last month from a year earlier, while exports to the United States dropped 1.8 per cent.

"Underlying momentum may be weaker than expected," said Mr Leong Wai Ho, an economist for Barclays.

However, exports to China rose 16.1 per cent from a year earlier, with a 25.9 per cent jump in exports of non-electronic products.

"Petrochemical shipments have spiked since January, and we noticed a similar jump in exports to China. That may suggest that a lot of this petrochem is going to China," said Mr Leong.

Singapore's petrochemical exports last month rose 43.1 per cent year-on-year after enjoying double-digit growth in January and February.

Still, the overall growth in non-oil domestic exports to China last month was slower than February's 35.5 per cent.

Singapore's exports of pharmaceuticals and electronics last month contributed to the overall decline in March. Exports of pharmaceuticals declined 44.6 per cent from a year earlier.

Electronics shipments fell 16.1 per cent, with exports of personal-computer parts sliding 38.6 per cent.